10 Pointers for France (whites)

When faced with a flight of wines from a single country it’s good to have some pointers that justify taking you to a particular place. It’s rarely just one factor that’ll take you to a specific place. It’s usually a combination. The more unique this combination the stronger your argument. This is by no means an exhaustive list — 10 is just a nice number.

  1. Structural focus
    traditional winemaking, higher solids, lees inclusion, ferment in old oak and concrete, and a necessity to pair with food. Think Alsace, Rhone, and Burgundy
  2. High minerality
    high limestone/calcium based soils, infertile soils, low nutrient ‘reductive’ ferments. Chablis is the most obvious example. Also, Sancerre, Savennieres, and other Burgs
  3. Relatively restrained primary fruit
    less intense sunlight, shorter ‘hang time’, traditional more oxidative winemaking all reduce the impact of primary fruit
  4. Earthy complexity
    the inclusion of some botrytis in drier wines can add a level of earthy complexity. Can be seen in some wines from Alsace and Vouvray
  5. Range of Noble or International varieties
    most so-called Noble or International varieties are French in origin. If you have a line up from a single country and recognise a Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer there’s not many countries they could come from
  6. Range of styles and climates
    As with the point above. There’s not many countries that have the climactic and geographic diversity to produce the range of wines that are found in France
  7. Chenin Blanc Loire Valley
    South Africa might grow more Chenin than France but stylistically they’re poles apart. Distinctive wines like Vouvray and Savennieres aren’t seen anywhere else
  8. Chablis 
    the wines of Chablis are distinctive and unique. There are imitations but none with the intense stony minerality and the pronounced tightly focused acidity
  9. Condrieu
    while Viognier is found the World over, not many (if any) match the fine balance between fatness and elegance seen in exemplary Condrieu
  10. High quality Bordeaux blanc
    not many Countries produce much high quality barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc. USA, Australia, and NZ do a bit.

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